Personnel Structure in the UFP Starfleet
What does "Personnel Structure" mean?
In any organization, be it military, government, or corporate, there tends to be set guidelines on who does what. This can mean "Organizational Chart" or "Personnel Structure". For the purposes of this article we shall be using "Personnel Structure", as Starfleet closely resembles a military organization.
Personnel Structure in the TNG Era
By the late 24th Century, Starfleet had shifted away from the traditional structure that most professional navies use. Rather than incorporating large numbers of trained enlisted personnel, the vessels were crawling with Junior Officers and civilians.
It's worth noting that:
- Senior Enlisted Personnel were excluded from virtually all command briefings.
- Officers stood watch in traditionally enlisted billets (the Helm, TAO, etc.).
- Extensive automation has rendered Starfleet vessels especially vulnerable to boardings on numerous occasions.
- Officers routinely perform maintenance (both corrective and preventive) that enlisted personnel traditionally do.
Indeed, the Chief Engineer of the Enterprise performed technicians' work on a regular basis! Rather than running the day-to-day affairs of the engineering department, you have a Lieutenant Commander running around pulling cables! Why is this?
The first point of interest is the lack of Senior Enlisted involvement in command decisions (Senior Chief O'Brien, a war hero, seems to be a anomaly, and he was the CHENG of a space station!). As the Federation in the TNG era had drifted towards a communist state, it is likely that the enlisted personnel (who had not gone through the Starfleet Academy, which is the only method of commissioning into Starfleet) were viewed with distrust for not having gone through proper indoctrination. In addition, the sole-source commissioning method likely created a "Good Ole Boys (and Girls) club" throughout Starfleet. In modern Western Militaries, OCS, Warrant Officer Programs, and ROTC/UOTC programs have ensured that this kind of "wardroom segregation" is minimized.
With enlisted personnel being excluded from important decisions, Junior Officers grew to fill roles traditionally associated with the enlisted ranks. The Helmsman (commonly a low ranking enlisted job in Western Navies) is taken up by anyone from an O-1 to an O-4! Sensor technicians, and firecontrolmen are nonexistent on TNG era starships, it's all routed through a single console in one location, where an officer stands. TAO watchstanders on USN vessels include Line Officers, Chief Warrant Officers, and Limited-Duty Officers. In the TNG era only Line Officers stand watch. Perhaps it's a good thing there is only one method of commissioning, as the swarm of junior officers performing junior enlisted duties mean promotion must be an agonizingly slow process (as seen on many occasions throughout the series.)
Much has been made of the automation involved in Starfleet vessels. The automation has meant that there seems to be a distinct lack of trained personnel ready to repel boardings, which is a depressingly regular occurrence. On a vessel the size of the Enterprise, 1,000 members of ship's company means spacious, empty corridors and compartments. A handful of 4-5man teams is woefully ill equipped to deal with boardings, and Starfleet doesn't seem to cross-train personnel outside of security for small arms usage. Considering the size of the security detachment (too big for routine security measures on USN vessels, but too small to repel boarders), Starfleet may be more concerned with suppressing mutinies rather than fighting enemies of the UFP.